Last Week’s Gaming – July 6th, 2020

So I didn’t get in Final Fantasy VII Remake last week, but I did get in some honest to goodness board gaming!

You know the feeling. You are looking so forward to finally stopping the hectic work schedule and playing some games. You are looking forward to it so much, you forget about the backlog you have been putting off for the end of the financial year.

You clear that, and then you realise you still have a sleep debt to pay. Your body calls due the promises you made for working extra hours. So, that big gaming session gets pushed back as you sleep. And sleep some more.

But on a brighter note, I got to catch up with Alpal and get in some honest to goodness in-person board gaming!

I kickstarted this a while ago under the impression Awful Fantasy Adventures was a streamlined Warhammer Quest/Arkham Horror TCG alternative. That is undoubtedly what the Kickstarter video promised.

What we got was a game so basic that even re-reading the rules three times, I messed up how to play it. Awful Fantasy Adventures isn’t terrible, but it’s not exactly what I backed either.

After trying heaps of times, Alpal and I couldn’t quite beat a basic game. On the plus side, games were fast and setup quick. On the other hand, draw one big bad early, and you have basically lost. That’s how everything came across.

I’m going to give this another go with more players – maybe two players isn’t the right number? We did have fun, but it wasn’t the game I was expecting to be playing.

Awful Fantasy Adventures - Mid Game
Fast, a bit of fun, but it didn't quite click. After Alpal helped read the rules, we lasted a lot longer 🙂

It’s mini Ticket to Ride! I have played this before with Alpal, and basically, it’s just replacing trains with cabs. You don’t get quite as many items to place, so games end very quickly.

That said, it’s not a dumbed-down version of Ticket to Ride. You still need to think about ticket strategies, but the longest route has been replaced with bonuses for specific landmarks.

I am going to have to do a proper Ticket to Ride review soon. When that is done, hopefully Alpal will lend me her copy of New York for a full comparison.

Ticket To Ride New York
Alpal pipped me by one point! When a full game is 15 minutes, it's quick fun

Iron Man VR – PS4/PSVR

I picked up my copy on Friday night, got it all installed and decided to play through it after a late work night.

Iron Man VR is stupidly fun. The feeling of actually being in the Iron Man Armour is fantastic, and the controls mostly work great. I still haven’t fine tweaked the PSVR set up in the new house, and I think that’s the cause of all my troubles.

That said, I couldn’t get too far into the game. Sore everything stopped me from playing too long. I will be pushing through to finish Iron Man over the next week, so a review will hopefully be soon.

If you have PSVR give the demo a go – you will either love it or not, and the demo is very representative of gameplay.

Iron Man VR
I would love a lounge room like this. I am working on better capture for VR as well.

Minesweeper Genius – Switch

So on Friday, I gave my review for Minesweeper Genius. During the week, I made a bit of progress in the game.

Really all of my thoughts on Minesweeper Genius were in the review, so check it out there. Going forward though, I do see myself firing it up and playing through a few levels for downtime.

I don’t know if I will keep including it in Last Week’s Gaming as it’s basically a declaration of “Hey, I played some more”. But I am going to slowly make my way through this little gem.

Minesweeper Genius - Messed that one up
I thought I had it planned out... Ooops.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

So I still haven’t sat down and mapped out my landscaping of Sleep Cove, but I have been pottering away. A snowman here, a resident change there. And now I can go swimming!

Is swimming game-changing? I wouldn’t say that. But it is oddly relaxing to go swimming around your island and collecting new things. I have finished the fossil section of my museum, but it’s been a while since I had a new donation for the museum. Now, I have lots of things to look for.

There are a couple of other minor changes to the latest New Horizons update, but I will leave those as a surprise for another week or two. Just in case you are playing and haven’t found them yet.

Also, when I jumped on this morning to check some Turnip prices, Isabelle announced shooting stars tonight. I guess I will be doing some star gazing tonight 🙂

Animal Crossing - New Resident
Fang has joined us on Sleep Cove
Animal Crossing - Swimming
Swimming is fun. Some puns though...

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 29th, 2020

Animal Crossing 20200629

Time to turn my eyes away from huge workloads, and back onto my backlog

The last few weeks have been hard. When I haven’t been working, I have been hiding from the world in general. It hasn’t been the greatest of times.

But, that’s the job. It’s no different from retail work on the holidays, or hospitality staff on a Friday night. It’s a hard run, but it’s the job and it’s done.

So while I am looking at getting back into games I have been neglecting (and catching up with people I have missed), that doesn’t mean I haven’t played any games!

Blood Rage Digital – Steam

What can I say – it keeps pulling me back in. Blood Rage is a heap of fun to play, and being able to leave it open or end my day with a game has let me get in quite a few games.

Things are even being fixed at an amazing rate. I can even start a game in the morning, and come back to it later now.

I still say playing around a table with friends is better, but to kick back and enjoy a game solo on my own time is great. I have been increasing the difficulty and playing with the styles. This lead to my best score to date!

Check out my review for more thoughts, but expect to see Blood Rage for at least a couple more weeks in Last Week’s Gaming.

Blood Rage - Best Score so far
My best score so far is with eveyone at medium and playing adaptive playstyles. I have not done as well since :p

Minesweeper Genius – Switch

I picked this up to get through a few more levels, and it was a bit of fun.

While I am jumping between the relatively simple early levels to the pictured ‘Special’ levels, the difficulty jump is obvious.

Minesweeper Genius is a little bit of a sleeper hit on my Switch. Nice to play while I have YouTube running, and I can just turn it off when I feel overwhelmed.

Hopefully, I will be finished it all in a couple of weeks, and I will do a formal review then.

MineSweeper Genius - Whoops
I was reasonably confident I had figured where most of the mines were. I was mistaken.

The Outer Worlds – Switch

As I wanted to finish my review, I obviously gave The Outer Worlds a bit of a run last week.

Everything I said holds true, and on the weekend while I had a half hour to kill I loaded up my save and did a small quest line. This is where games like this come to life on Switch.

That said, it will probably be a while before I finish this run. Now that end of financial year is done, I intend to jump back into Final Fantasy VII Remake with a gusto!

The Outer Wolds - The Crew
I have done a couple of quests, but I am not hitting it hard. I have Final Fantasy VII to get back to...

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

Another week down, and another week of jumping in and out of Animal Crossing. This week, I made a pretty good return on the Turnip exchange, and I have paid off my house!

I will probably go easy this week, as I hope to be playing some other games I have been neglecting. But it’s time to get my island renovations sorted 🙂

I am thinking a residential area, a rural area, and a fun area. Time to go shopping for stuff as well!

Animal Crossing - Home paid off
The last home loan paid off. Now to build funds for island renovations.

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 15th, 2020

Animal Crossing Snowfolk

It wasn’t a huge games week this time around. But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to say about what I did play!

The crunch. I hate this time of year work-wise. It’s like the Christmas sales in retail. Bleah. Coupled with an incredibly annoying Telstra issue with work, this has just been such a pain.

But, as usual, gaming has been a pleasant refuge. I just haven’t had the mental capacity to play as much as I wanted. I did get to spend a nice night on the couch watching Food Wars with Rabbit though. Wouldn’t have switched that for anything 🙂

But that’s enough of my week – let’s talk about the gaming I did get in!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

Not too much in terms of my island progress, but it has still been fun to potter around. Now that winter has officially come to my island, I have also been having fun building Snowfolk.

I have some turnips ready to sell this week, and the plan is to pay off my last house upgrade this week. Once that is done, I will have a look at how quickly I can build some extra bells. The extra money can get dumped into building bridges and inclines, as well as moving buildings around.

But all that is ‘when I have time to sit and plan’. Work-wise at the moment, I can’t really put the time in I want to for this. But the end of the financial year is only 2 weeks away, and that is a lot of time to keep buying a lot of turnips to build that cash flow.

Animal Crossing Cherry Island
I also finally have a new fruit! Cherries have arrived on Sleep Cove

The Outer Worlds – Switch

Again, I haven’t played this as much as I wanted to, but I have been making progress. Currently, my character is up to level 5, and I have recruited my first two teammates.

Graphically, it looks better on Xbox. This was always going to be the case – portability does mean sacrifice. But even at the end of a long day, picking up the Switch and playing a quest then putting it down has been pretty much perfect. It’s the experience I hoped it would be.

The Outer Worlds Exploration
Running around the world and discovering new areas feels great

There have been some framerate dips, and texture popping (things appearing out of nowhere/images loading while looking at them) is a thing. But playing purely handheld, it has been running well. I have even found a quest I missed on my first playthrough.

I am still waiting to at least finish the first ‘world’ before doing my final review, but so far everything is promising. It might be another week before I feel comfortable giving The Outer Worlds a final review though

The Outer Worlds Sign Not Loaded In Properly
It looks worse when on a big screen, but the sign is only 'half loaded' - this is an example of texture popping

Iron Man VR Demo – PSVR

I have been eagerly waiting for this game since it was announced. Mixing VR with Iron Man is such a perfect fit. Seeing the view from the suit, the Iron Man display is basically Augmented Reality – all the readouts etc. placed over Tony Stark’s view of the world. Emulating this in VR is simple, and wearing the VR headset helps with the immersion of ‘wearing’ the suit.

The demo itself is short. It contains the tutorial, a ‘cut scene’ and the first chapter of the game. I quickly got used to the controls, and I can mostly zip around the sky without hitting everything inside of about 5 minutes.

Iron Man VR Tutorial
This is internal capture. It looks better on the shared screen. But holding up your hands and shooting feels awesome!

One thing became instantly apparent, though. You play Iron Man VR in a true 360-degree environment. This is great for immersion, but the PSVR cable is terrible for this experience. My first playthrough, I managed to not only unplug my headset but the VR control box from the PlayStation.

I doubt Iron Man VR will be released on anything but PlayStation. Still, this game would be perfect on the Oculus Quest or any other fully wireless VR headset. Here is hoping that PSVR2 is wireless with inside out tracking!

Iron Man VR Scanning Plane
The feeling of being in the Iron Man suit is impossible to describe

I don’t know if I will be grabbing Iron Man VR on July 3rd (the actual release date). Not because I am not looking forward to it, I just don’t know if I will be up to playing it day one. I will be grabbing it and playing it pretty heavily though, so expect to hear more about Iron Man VR in about a month.

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 1st, 2020

Animal Crossing Shooting Star

One full week back at work, and I am back to being overly tired. I didn’t play any PS4 or Xbox this week. But I did get in some digital board gaming – let the gaming challenge counts finally rise!

OK, so it wasn’t a huge dent, but a dent is a dent. Kicking back and playing the AI isn’t as good as playing with my friends, but it was still good to do some board gaming.

Turn-based, take your time, board gaming. I needed it last week, and probably will again this week.

But enough of all that – on to what actually got played!

Istanbul – Steam

I quite enjoy Istanbul, but it can be a brain breaker. This is why I generally prefer Istanbul: The Dice Game. It’s one of those rare times where the dice game captured the feel of the ‘original’ game perfectly.

Early last week, I nabbed the Steam digital version and gave it a go. The tutorial is as good as I can ask for. One of the downsides to Istanbul is there are a few different things to keep track of, and it takes at least a couple of games for everything to click.

Going to see if I can get a game or two in on games night, and see what everyone else thinks of playing it digitally.

Istanbul Board
It's the board game, with everything laid out logically.
Istanbul Caravansary
It is a lot easier to read what the locations do though!

Small World – Android

Well, discounts got me last week. Google Play gave me a $1 credit, and I started having a look to see if there was anything that jumped out at me. Turned out there were two titles.

The first one was an old favourite that I hadn’t played for quite some time – Small World.

I had a couple of games, and I enjoyed it. That said, I can’t recommend people that haven’t already got it run out and buy it. First and foremost, I got the ‘this was written for an older version of Android’ warning as soon as I started it up. That doesn’t bode well for staying on your phone much longer.

Playing it on mobile is a little frustrating when your finger misses a token. Everything is just so small, and my gorilla fingers had trouble moving my tokens.

It did remind me that I do have Small World on Steam though. On a bigger screen, the gameplay will be a lot smoother. And just as fun as the board game, without the micromanagement.

I will have to see if I can use Remote Play Together on it for a games night…

Small World No Support Die
Three sides of this die are blank. You will swear it has 7 blank sides.
Small World You Have How Many Land
It was at this point, I thought this may have been a mistake
Small World Victory
And this is why you never give up trying

Dragon Castle – Steam

I reviewed Dragon Castle last week, so I won’t be talking much about this one. But how could I do a review and not grab at least one screenshot of the game? Oh no, I had to play a game. Such a hard life :p

Today I will talk about how disappointed I was that Dragon Castle doesn’t work with Remote Play Together. Like Tokaido, Dragon Castle is a great game to be playing during a conversation, and I think it would work really well in the remote play format.

I think if people could jump in for a round or two on someone else’s copy, more copies would be sold. Yes, it was on sale for a very low entry point cost, but you had to want to already play to be willing to pay it.

But that’s just my rant. 🙂

Dragon Castle Poor Decisions
I was getting worried. The compute started targeting my dragon tiles.
Dragon Castle Tie Loss
Lost on tie breaker though. Can't be unhappy with that comeback!

When I got an email saying that Imperial Settlers was coming to mobile, I was very excited. I have had my eye on the roll and write version for a while, and a portable solo version could bump Onirim for plays.

I bought it, loaded it up, and played the tutorial. And I have no idea what is going on.

Teaching board games is hard. Anyone that has tried can tell you that. Learning board games is harder, and some manuals do not help with this.

That is where Imperial Settlers: Roll and Write fell down for me. There is a manual you have to read that will hopefully explain enough to understand the tutorial. The tutorial itself was basically ‘pick this, move it’ with little explanation as to what you were trying to achieve.

So now I am going to sit with a few video tutorials and the rule book. This is the only way I believe I can get the full experience. I will come back to this one in a few weeks with a full review.

Imperial Settlers Tutorial
Why do you want crowns? Read the manual to find out!

Blood Rage – Steam

As I wrote last Wednesday, I was looking forward to this. I enjoy Blood Rage, but it’s a hard one to get to the table. Not that it’s a bad game – just one that takes a lot of coordination getting certain types of player together.

I was hoping that the digital version would help me get some plays in, and I believe it will. I have played two games against AI opponents so far, and the ‘easy’ difficulty still gives a challenge.

The biggest challenge was actually my screen. Playing in ultrawide in my first game, I realised that I couldn’t see my army strength. The number was blocked by my cards. This wasn’t a problem in the tutorial, as I didn’t have enough of a hand for it to happen.

Changing the resolution to a standard size 1920×1080, this wasn’t an issue, and I handily won my second game. Both rounds were fun, but this was a bit strange. I will look more into it during the week.

Initial thought though – this could be a lot of fun on the go. Maybe a Switch version?

Blood Rage Cards Blocking
Below my card is supposed to be my army strength
Blod Rage Bad Card To Play
If you don't have cards, it's not a problem. Except I shouldn't have entered this fight!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

It was another week on Sleep Cove. Did some fishing, bought some stuff, started toying with my island setup. Still trying to get it right in my head.

Yesterday I messed up though. I completely forgot that Daisy Mae only sells turnips Sunday MORNING. When did I remember this? When Isabelle proudly informed me it was 12:01.

It’s far from the biggest issue in the world, but it was indicative of most of my week hahaha.

I need about another 100,000 bells to pay off my upstairs room. I think I will spend a night roughly planning out the changes I want to make to my island, and having fun fishing. Now that winter has officially hit my island, hopefully I will find some new fish and bugs to collect as well!

Animal Crossing Shooting Star
I also finally got to see a shooting star! Star fragments acquired, finally crafter a wand 🙂

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition – Switch

RPG’s are my game of choice for when I want to settle down and immerse myself in a world. I don’t have much time for that lately, but it is what I enjoy.

When Xenoblade Chronicles was announced, I was excited. I have a version for my DS, but that hasn’t been pulled out since last PAX. The Switch has basically replaced all of my handheld gaming, except for quick mobile diversions.

One reasonably universal downside to RPG’s is starting them. Fans are nodding, some people are probably confused.

Vast RPG worlds are great when you are in them, but it’s hard to invest in a game that drops you into it completely blind. So you get to do the introduction to the world. This is part story building, and part tutorial.

I am 40 minutes in, and I haven’t gotten to the first town to ‘start’ the game. This is what I mean by ‘starting them’ is a problem.

It looks gorgeous on the Switch, even playing in handheld mode. It might take a week, but I will make it to the village and get my first taste of the game soon.

Figure 3-4 more weeks, and I can start playing it properly!

Xenoblade Chronicles Titans Clash
The bodies of these two huge creatures is the world you will explore
Xenoblade Chronicles Bad Day
No spoilers, but when I watched this happen all I could think was "Justice"

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

PC Gaming. And you thought Console choices were hard.

Gaming PC Stereotype

There is a lot to think about with tech. Don’t get fooled by the marketing.

So I was going to talk about all of this on Tuesday, my ‘normal’ day for Talking Tech articles. I put it off because of a flood of reviews on the new AMD Ryzen 4800HS laptops. And I am drooling. There is finally a low power CPU that can eat my desktop i9-9900k for CPU intensive tasks. The catch? Gaming isn’t a CPU intensive task.

What does all this mean? You have already dropped numbers and acronyms I don’t get!

The whole point of these articles is to try and simplify the technical minefield that is computing. In future articles, I will be taking you through individual components and talking about what all of the numbers and acronyms mean.

Today, I am going to try and clarify some terms that I am going to be using a lot of the coming weeks. I will also touch on why most of you shouldn’t get caught up in the new AMD laptop hype.

Oh, he’s an Intel shill. Stop reading everyone.

Hold up! I am only picking on the new 4800HS because it is the current hype. The new AMD chips deserve all the praise they have been receiving and more. I already said I am really looking forward to these processors becoming available!

What I am going to point out that for gaming, you don’t need to go high end on most components. Companies want you to buy the expensive stuff, but it’s not always what you need. The exception is your graphics card, but even that doesn’t need to be as high as you need.

But I watch all these fantastic systems be built with incredible results!

One of my favourite lie back and chill YouTube playlists is a lot of showcase computer builds and hardware reviews. Why? I know a lot of the results before they start, so I can just watch people play with the equipment I would never pay for.

But there is a catch with YouTubers and their reviews. No, I am not bringing any results integrity into question. All of the channels I love have a high level of enthusiasm and expertise. The catch is the equipment they use.

Intel, AMD, Nvidia, Asus, Gigabyte et al. have a tendency to ship flagship top of the line units. Why show what an Nvidia 2070 graphics card can do, when we can let you show off a 2080 Ti that costs people 3 times as much?

So if someone hands you AUD$5,000+ worth of stuff to make a computer out of, why wouldn’t you? And of course, they are going to do it with a smile – they are literally kids in a candy shop!

JayzTwoCents Nebula Gaming PC Build
Even in this incomplete state, you could build two or three solid gaming systems for the cost of this beauty.

So today, I am going to outline some firm guidelines for what you need for a solid gaming experience vs top of the line show pieces.

You keep saying “A Solid Experience”. What does that even mean?

Between PCs and Consoles, my definition of solid experience is a little different. For consoles, you want to play games at a stable frame rate with no need for you to do anything to intervene.

What are frame rates? It’s literally how many images the system can throw up on the screen in a second. Frame Rates, Frames Per Second and monitor frequency all work together to try and give you a smooth gaming experience.

If you watch TV and movies, these are traditionally filmed at 24 frames per second. This is why if you pay close attention, a fast-moving object appears to ‘stutter’ on the screen. If you watched frame by frame, you could see how the object jumps from location to location.

Gaming at 60 frames per second helps reduce this by a lot. And today with the power of graphics cards, hitting 60 frames is pretty easy even for ‘graphics-heavy’ titles. This is where the monitor frequencies join the fun. If you have a monitor that works at 60Hz, this means it refreshes at 60 frames per second (simplified explanation), showing you each and every frame.

Why am I banging on about frames per second? I consider 60 frames per second as a ‘solid’ experience. Not Ray Tracing, DLSS Turbo blah blah blah. These technologies are important and have a place, but not necessary to the experience.

Monitor Refresh Rates
Images like this are supposed to make you feel like you NEED the bigger numbers. Marketing Hype.

But I want everything to work with all the bells and whistles! Don’t I need all that RTX stuff?

Not in my opinion. And that is the key phrase – “My Opinion”. If you want Ray Tracing, you aren’t wrong. I keep coming back to the car analogy. If you look at the Hyundai cars, the i20 works and gets you around. The i30 gets you about in a bit of comfort and doesn’t have trouble speeding up on hills. If you go up to the Sonata, you get more of the luxury features that make it more delightful to drive.

Looking at the accurate reflections is amazing and immersive. I am not dismissing the technology. But if you look at the Resident Evil 3 Demo pics from the XBox One S, it also had amazing reflections. Ray Tracing is the future, but it’s not the standard yet.

If you have the money to spend, you can go all the way to a Masarati or similar supercar though. Think of the price jump from an i30 to a Masarati. For day to day driving, how many people can really justify a Masarati? Wanting is fine, and if you can do it. Send me pics. I will be jealous 🙂

Gaming is the same. Using this analogy, I am guiding you towards the i30 of gaming systems. A good, reliable ‘bang for the buck’ system. More importantly, I am trying to explain why I think these systems are the way they are. Not to convince you that I am ‘right’, but so that you can look at your own use case and decide what is right for you.

So what do I need for a gaming system?

The keyword in all this is ‘System’. No one part makes a system, but one piece can break a system.

Don’t panic! If you stick with me, I will tell you all of the little gotchas and traps that can lead to an expensive experiment. That is why I am not just throwing up a bunch of specs and saying ‘go forth and enjoy’. It’s easy to do that with consoles – they are what they are. PCs can be customised any number of ways, so you need to understand how they all work together.

Over the years, I keep getting asked for the 2 pieces people think makes up a system – the box and the screen. Technically these are 2 components of a system, but a few bits are missing.

To build a system, you need to think about the following components:

  1. CPU
  2. Graphics Card
  3. Motherboard
  4. Memory (RAM)
  5. Storage
  6. Cooling
  7. Case
  8. Power Supply
  9. Monitor
  10. Sound (Speakers or Headphones?)
  11. Operating System
  12. Any extra parts (e.g. Expansion Cards, RGB)

It can be really intimidating, as each item has a considerable amount of options. But now, I will take you through the basics of what I think you need for good gaming only system. This doesn’t go through everything on the list, but I will take you through the essential parts of the main pieces.

CPU

The brains of your computer are the Central Processing Unit or CPU. There are two offerings – Intel and AMD. Each company has pros and cons, but for gaming, either is a solid choice.

The thing you want to look for is a CPU with 8 threads. Not cores – threads. A core is basically a dedicated processor, and a thread is a queue of commands that can be executed at the same time. By having 8 threads, your computer can handle a lot of tasks at the same time. A 4 core/8 thread CPU for gaming is just as good as an 8 core/8 thread one for games. Don’t let the different model numbers and marketing confuse you – just concentrate on the number of threads, and you will be fine.

CPU Processing Giants
Anyone tells you this is what you need to just play games - walk away. Quickly.

I will get more into the nitty-gritty of all this when I do my article on CPUs, but gaming has only recently started taking advantage of using more than one thread. Eight threads sound like a lot, but really it’s a comfortable number. Remember that Windows and all of the ‘normal’ things your computer is doing also run in the background, so a little breathing room is a good thing! 🙂

For 1080p gaming, I would aim for a minimum of an i5 (Intel) or Ryzen 5 (AMD) processor. Both have great options that will do many tasks well. If you look at different builds on the internet, I have seen people say you need an i7/i9 16+ thread CPU for gaming. No, you don’t.

You might need an i7 only becuase Intel has shifted up the new processor numbering. Buying a desktop i5 processor can be tricky. It’s a marketing ploy. Look at the threads, look at the price. There is nothing wrong with an 8th generation processor, especially just for playing games – older is not always worse, especially with Intel processors.

If you want to do streaming/content creation/video editing or run multiple high-end graphics cards, yes the extra threads help. But just for gaming, come back down the scale. It’s a lot cheaper as well.

Today is very much a ‘don’t go lower’ message. Over the next few weeks, we will talk about why you might want to go higher, and when you should think about it.

Graphics Card

The two main GPU providers - Nvidia and AMD
Yes these are 'older' model cards, but they still hold up if you are on a tight budget!

This is where your gaming grunt is mainly handled. Notice I say Graphics Card, not GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) like many people do. It’s a semantic difference, but a GPU is part of a graphics card, not the whole of it. Graphics cards are literally little computer systems in themselves, and many things differentiate them from each other – not just the GPU.

This is probably going to be a controversial call for some, but I will stand by these choices.

I would recommend a minimum of 1660 Ti for 1080p gaming. I have this card in my laptop, and I can get 90+ frames per second on Control, a very new game. Some people recommend the RTX 2060, but I would be wary. Ray Tracing is really pretty, but it can also cost you 20-30% of your frame rate, and so you need to either turn it off or drop quality settings.

To me, if you have to turn off features of a more expensive card, why pay for it?

Now I am not ignoring Radeon cards. The RX 5600 goes toe to toe with the 1660 Ti and is a great choice. AMD has been having some driver issues lately that have made the news. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – this happens on both sides from time to time. It is one of those things that unfortunately just happen.

AMD cards are an excellent choice, but they tend to have a bumpier troubleshooting experience than Nvidia. 

If you are worried about something going wrong and have to fix it yourself, stick with Nvidia. If you don’t mind rolling back a driver if something goes wrong, give Radeon a good look. 

Also, don’t forget, Nvidia and Radeon work equally well on AMD and Intel CPUs. I have heard sales staff tell people you need Nvidia with Intel CPUs, and Radeon for AMD CPUs. If someone tells you this, ask for another sales person!

Memory (RAM)

I need to go into a lot of detail about this, but the short version is you want to go Dual Channel memory. Now, this is actually a feature of the motherboard, but it has a real impact on what RAM you buy.

For Dual Channel, you will need at least two sticks of RAM, so if you want 8GB of RAM, you need 2 x 4GB sticks.

How much RAM do you need? That’s easy. You can get away with 8GB, but I would try and go for 16GB if your budget can stretch to it. I will go into the whys and whatnot when we look at this in more detail in another piece.

RGB RAM
Some people pick a quantity, and then move on to RGB or No RGB. There is an important factor missed.

The trickier question that gets overlooked is what speed RAM. That’s right – your RAM has a speed!

For Intel, high-speed RAM doesn’t really impact performance. Just sticking with a Dual Channel setup will see you the best performance. Aim for the 2400MHz models as a minimum, and go higher only if the cost is right for you. I wouldn’t go over 3200MHz, and even that is pushing it. The benefits just aren’t there on Intel CPUs for the extra speeds, especially for pure gaming performance.

For AMD, it’s a very different story. AMD is more than just a different brand, it’s a different type of CPU architecture. And it loves high-speed RAM. Faster RAM costs more, but I would aim at a minimum of 3200MHz, with 3600MHz being the sweet spot for the price vs performance gains.

Storage

Another short but sweet until I can get into more detail.

System Storage Types
From Left to Right - Slower but cheaper for large storage capacity, faster but expensive at high capacity, and best but very expensive per GB.

You want an NVMe drive for your operating system/essential programs, and you don’t need a PCIe 4 drive! PCIe 3 for Windows and Games have excellent (and almost identical) performance compared to the expensive PCIe 4 drives.

For more abundant storage, you can go a large but slower SATA SSD to load your Steam games on (not Steam itself – install that on the NVMe drive!), or even a cheaper HDD. This way the HDD will only be dealing with loading files for the game, with the more complicated file structures handled by the high-speed drive. This is a sound cost/performance ratio setup.

Intel Optane drives, and PCIe 4 drives, have their place and are fantastic tech. That place isn’t for everyday file access, though. Not for the costs involved at least. They are the Masarati’s of the storage world, again don’t let the marketing fool you!

So you have told me lots of choices, but not specific parts!

Yep. That’s because this is already a REALLY long piece. A big part of this will boil down to what you can spend as well. There is no one ‘perfect’ build out there.

But a lot of the basics you now have a little bit more knowledge of what you should be aiming for. You will also have an idea of the sorts of things I want to cover and have an idea of what might be a questionable choice when looking at specs.

Next time, I will be making a video with parts lists for solid, advanced and high-level gaming systems. I will also talk about why I think those systems are in the tier they are, as well what I consider those tiers to be!

I will compare these to some gaming companies ‘ready-made’ desktops and laptops, and show why it’s important to know what you are looking for.

If you would like more information on a specific part or build type, drop a comment, and I will try and answer it or bring forward that article to try and help 😀

Until next time,

JohnHQLD